Is a piano inevitable?
You could make the same point about many of the technological advances we have today. Was the iPhone an inevitability? How about Excel? I cannot visualize life without either.
Both the pipe organ and piano were invented about at the same time, and are based on resonators, strings, pipes that double in length for every octave with the intermediate sounds proportionally, allowing via a keyboard to produce many sounds simultaneously. It was bound to happen with us, re-creating humans on Earth, after all, the planetary orbits with their rhythms are also doubling in size and span 5 octaves like a piano keyboard.
The piano would have been invented, regardless. To be brief, music theory is math. Musical tones and harmonies can be measured. There is a scientific reason why certain tones sound good together and others don't. Experimenting with different tones on plucked strings led to harped instruments to harpsichords to pianos. It would have happened sooner or later. I was a music major in college.
As a writer, I'm very interested in words for a number of reasons, so it shouldn't surprise anybody that I
have a love-hate relationship with the word "inevitable."
The concept itself of inevitability is problematic for me. How is it testable, verifiable, falsifiable?
It's a lot like saying, "Only possible things happen." This statement means impossibility is only conceivable theoretically since things we "think" to be impossible have happened all through history.
Back to the inevitability of the piano. . .
I own a 2004 Yamaha Motif ES keyboard which can reproduce any sound which exits as well as those which never before existed. By shaping sound files, I can bring into being not only musical sounds, but non-musical as well. The reason I raise this instance will soon become apparent.
When every sound is possible, are all sounds inevitable? Let's ask it mathematically.
Let's ask it mathematically and switch to the game of CHESS.
There are over 9 million different possible positions after three moves each. There are over 288 billion different possible positions after four moves each. The number of distinct 40-move games is far greater than the number of electrons in the observable universe.
Are all games of chess inevitable?
At this point I'm going to answer practically and pragmatically: NO.
I think what humans invent and discover over the span of their existence is limiting to "necessities" first, and curiosities second.
Even if scientific and technological machines were invented which could, in turn, invent still other things--who would have the time to test and review them, and toward what profitable end?
The piano is an equal-tempered instrument which makes it an artificial compromise in tuning that Western ears have adjusted to over time. It is by no means a natural consequence of tuning based on relative pitches from lowest to highest.
My Yamaha keyboard can sound like a Bosendorfer grand or a Honky Tonk saloon instrument, or a combination of so many other kinds of piano--but--in the final analysis, who gives a shit? :)
There is so much "music" hanging in the air already--it's like street signs, billboards, and advertising--too much is way more than enough already.
I agree with you Terry, I would add that “inevitability” is an uncompromising absolute. The creation of the piano is an expediency as mentioned, to better fit the needs of composers and to improve beyond the limitations of note sustainability and modulation of sound over the mechanically plucked strings of earlier keyboard instruments.
Are humans inevitable? (which question may have prompted your asking about pianos?) No! Nevertheless a bipedal mammal with the ability to nurture their young for a long time might use culturally communicated intelligence to survive the predations of hungry large cats. Gorilla sapiens possibly or Pan sapiens, et al.
The species of piano similarly has been the result of a selection process but chosen by ‘ear’ and not by ‘natural selection.’
Incidentally, since the name ‘piano’ is an abbreviation of ‘piano forte’ meaning ‘soft-loud’ in Italian; have you ever thought what actually is the instrument in question...a soft/loud what?
Answer: clavier cembolo
1435 approx an Organ with a keyboard built in Switzerland, a bit difficult to transport as it must have weighted tons, hence need for lightweight, by comparison, keyboard instrument.
Writing is said to have developed independently at least twice, in Mesopotamia and in Mesoamerica. It seems inevitable. The Wasteland was only written once, and it seems to have been... not inevitable. What about a piano? Is it inevitable like writing or surprising like the end of this fish?
I would say that some type of keyboard-operated stringed instrument is inevitable, but that the equal tempered scale is not.
Writing is said to have developed independently at least twice, in Mesopotamia and in Mesoamerica. It seems inevitable. The Wasteland was only written once, and it seems to have been... not inevitable
The Wasteland was also heavily edited into shape, to the extent Pound joked he should be called the midwife. Would another word salad pruned to suitably sized slabs have sufficed? Modernism actually arose at least twice within European literature, and from very different roots each time. Was writing not inevitable because cuneiform doesn't look like glyphs?